The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

When it comes to reducing the time and expense of litigation, be careful what you wish for. Attorneys often advise employers to consider adopting arbitration clauses to settle employment disputes. With arbitration, no jury is involved; the case stays out of court; there’s no bad publicity; and it may be cheaper—or maybe not.

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Some employers include a privacy clause in their applications and handbooks that tells employees they can opt out of having their names and addresses released to third parties. However, if a worker who is suing for wage-and-hour violations wants to get his hands on employee names and contact information for the purpose of building a class-action case, those privacy clauses can’t stop it.

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If, like many employers, you rely on a bonus plan to help retain valued employees and motivate them to work hard, don’t get caught in this common trap: Employees who worked overtime during the bonus-earning period will be entitled to additional overtime pay after they get their bonuses.

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Three former Mervyn’s employees recently filed a lawsuit against the bankrupt department store company for violating the federal WARN Act when it suddenly fired hundreds of workers last year.

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Roberto Hernandez, who used to work in American Apparel’s inventory and IT operation, claims he was fired for refusing to pad the company’s stats at CEO Dov Charney’s request. Now he’s filed suit against the company, alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress and other charges.

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Claims adjusters may be exempt from overtime under the California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 4. Reason: They’re administrative employees.

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California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers whose disabled employees ask for accommodations to “engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee … to determine effective reasonable accommodations.” The key is to act promptly.

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Remind all hiring managers and supervisors that absolutely no racial slurs are allowed during an interview—not even in passing or in jest. Applicants who aren’t hired will get a jury trial if they can show that someone with hiring authority uttered a racial slur.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that cruise lines and the unions who negotiate labor contracts on behalf of the “seamen” who work on cruise ships can agree that all disputes go to arbitration, and that employment contracts that include arbitration clauses are enforceable.

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If you thought that one advantage of using independent contractors was that those contractors couldn’t sue you for injuries suffered at work, think again.

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